Why Gruyère Is The Most Popular Swiss Cheese | Regional Eats

Ju: When you think of Swiss cheese, you think of holes, right? But Emmentaler isn’t actually the most popular cheese in Switzerland. Gruyère is the most produced and most consumed cheese in the country. We’re here to see how
it’s made and find out why it’s the main component
of a Swiss fondue. We’re actually in the town
of Gruyères, which in the French-speaking region
of Fribourg, near Geneva. Fribourg is one of the five areas, including Bern, Jura, Vaud, and Neuchâtel, that make up the Gruyère
AOP production zone. Gruyère has a long heritage. Records of cheesemaking go back to the 12th century in this region. Legend has it that in the year 161, the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius died after eating too much Gruyère. Today, 30,000 tons of Gruyère
are produced here each year. The Maison du Gruyère is
responsible for 520 tons of that. In 2018, over 15,000 tons of Gruyère were sold in Switzerland, making
it the most consumed cheese in the country, ahead of
mozzarella and Emmentaler. Gruyère was granted AOP
protection from the EU in 2001, meaning that these areas are the “protected designation of origin.” But there are a few
qualifications for this. It must be made using
traditional know-how, it must be aged to a
minimum of five months, and it must be made using raw
milk from natural-fed cows, from dairies no more
than 20 kilometers away. Milk is supplied twice a day. A vat containing 4,800
liters of unpasteurized milk is used to produce 12 wheels
of Gruyère AOP at a time. 48 wheels are produced daily. The cheesemaker adds starter
cultures made from whey to mature the milk. Rennet is also added to curdle the milk. This sets the milk into a
junket after 40 minutes. Knives called cheese harps
are used to cut the curd. The vat is gradually heated
up to 57 degrees Celsius, until the curds are the
size of wheat grains. The cheesemaker must check the texture and size of these carefully. The contents of the vat are
then pumped out into molds, and the whey is drained away. Each wheel is then pressed for 24 hours. The following day, each wheel is dipped in a concentrated
salt bath for 24 hours. After, it is taken to the cellars, where it is constantly turned
and the rind is washed. The cheese is stored at
around 15 degrees Celsius. The cheese also has to be
kept on wooden shelves. A cellar like this houses
around 7,000 wheels of cheese. Gruyère is aged here for five months, at which point it is ready to eat. For a sharper taste, it can
be aged up to 16 months. – Going to give them a try and see whether I can tell the difference between the different ages. First one I’m going to try is
the six-month-aged Gruyère. The rich kind of nuttiness
hasn’t come through as much yet. It’s still quite a mild
cheese at this stage. Now to taste the eight-month aged Gruyère. Oh wow, there’s such a difference in flavor between the two of them. Also, the texture of it
is slightly more grainy and a much richer flavor to this one. I know this is going to
be the strongest flavor because it’s the longest aged. So, all three of these
go into making a fondue, which we’re gonna try. We couldn’t come here without trying fondue moitié-moitié, also called fondue Suisse. In many Swiss regions, Gruyère cheese is the most popular ingredient in fondue. – Another important component
for a great fondue here is the vacherin. And what it does it gives it consistency. So it’s not just Gruyère that
goes into an amazing fondue. That is so rich and so creamy. You can definitely taste a bit of punch from the more mature
flavors of cheese in there. It’s just the absolute real deal. That is the best fondue I’ve ever had. On top of fondue, you can find Gruyère in French onion soup, croque monsieur, cordon bleu,
quiche, the list goes on. It’s a versatile and popular cheese for cooking because it has a taste that’s distinct but not overpowering. A wheel of Gruyère is
between 55 and 65 centimeters in diameter and weighs
between 25 and 40 kilograms. Have you noticed the writing
on the side of the rind? “Le Gruyère AOP” is inscribed
on every authentic wheel. Each wheel must have a casein mark and the number of the cheese factory. It must also have the date
of the production on it. You might be thinking, wait, why doesn’t this Swiss
cheese have holes in it? The French variety of Gruyère is required to have holes
and receives IGP protection. In Switzerland, Gruyère
receives AOP protection and it’s a smooth texture. As Gruyère is such a popular cheese, how does the Maison Du Gruyère protect itself against copycat products? Philippe Bardet: Gruyère
is a well-known name, so, and it’s a high-quality product. Like a watch, for example. You can make fake Gruyère and we find some fake Gruyère on the market, and we can find who is the producer of this fake Gruyère, we attack him. Ju: The name Gruyère is
protected around the world in Switzerland, Russia, Europe,
South Africa, and the USA.